BEST OF SXSW

We share our fa­vorite acts from the fes­ti­val

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s all over but the nap­ping. Here, our mu­sic team shares some of their fa­vorite acts from South by South­west 2017. Catch up on the whole SXSW Con­fer­ence and Fes­ti­vals at austin360.com/sxsw and 512tech.com.

DEB­O­RAH SEN­GUPTA STITH

Solange: In an hour­long set that felt like a lu­cid dream, Solange drew us into her world. She cre­ated dra­matic stage pic­tures through in­tri­cate chore­og­ra­phy with the in­ter­pre­tive ges­tures of mod­ern dance, the shoul­der shim­mies and hip-shakes of the club and the war­rior stances of tra­di­tional African dance. She in­hab­ited the mu­sic com­pletely, and she brought the emo­tional mean­ing of the songs to life with such force that some of the women who crowded the front of the stage wept openly when she played her Grammy-win­ning ode to heart­break, “Cranes in the Sky.”

Lizzo: The Min­neapo­lis rap­per was all over the fest, but the only set that worked with my sched­ule was Fri­day on the Ra­dio Day Stage. I was run­ning late and stuck in traf­fic. So I hopped out of my ride-share, ran three blocks and made it in time to hear “Coconut Oil,” her fierce ode to self-love. Out of breath, ex­hausted and emo­tion­ally raw, I sud­denly was van­quish­ing the ves­tiges of my teenage in­se­cu­ri­ties while jump­ing up and down singing “It’s a party over here now” with tears stream­ing down my face. I posted a video clip from the set on Twit­ter and a woman I don’t know retweeted

it with three words: “(Ex­ple­tive) life-chang­ing.” (Ex­ple­tive) life-chang­ing in­deed.

Em­manuel Jal: The for­mer child sol­dier re­fuses to de­fine his life by the hor­rors he has seen. Rep­re­sent­ing Su­dan on the Con­traBanned show­case that fea­tured mu­si­cians from coun­tries tar­geted by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s travel ban, he brought a mes­sage of unity and of love that tri­umphs over fear. “Fear is real in the mind,” he said. “Think about peace and kind­ness in your mind, we can bring that here.” Jamila Woods and Non­ame: The Chicago re­nais­sance is real. In the last few years, de­spite a cy­cle of vi­o­lence that seems cease­less — or per­haps be­cause of it — the city’s ur­ban mu­sic scene has ex­ploded with soar­ing heart that for­ti­fies the soul of Amer­ica. Both of th­ese women, with their jazzy, neo-soul grooves, un­apolo­getic ac­tivism and “Black Girl Magic,” are part of that move­ment. Third Root: “The build­ing’s on fire but the band played on.” This Cen­tral Texas hip-hop crew brings a ruckus for jus­tice and the rev­o­lu­tion will not be si­lenced. Af­ter a week spent sam­pling sounds from across the coun­try and around the world, ATX hip-hop brought it home hard on Satur­day night.

PETER BLACKSTOCK

Big Star’s Third: Orig­i­nal Big Star drum­mer Jody Stephens, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, ring­leader Chris Stamey and a band of North Carolina ris­ing stars were at the core of this tribute to the leg­endary Mem­phis band, timed to co­in­cide with their con­cert film that pre­miered at SXSW. But the game-changer was Austin’s Tosca Strings, who brought out the haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful melodies at the heart of the ma­te­rial.

Luck Re­union: A first visit to Wil­lie Nel­son’s big bash west of town was well worth the drive out and back, with high­lights in­clud­ing an­other knock-’em-dead set by rootscoun­try pow­er­house Margo Price and an in­ti­mate, un­am­pli­fied pop-up per­for­mance by fid­dler Sara Watkins and Austin gui­tarist David Garza. Ray Ben­son’s 66th Birth­day Bash: We left Luck be­fore the grand Wil­lie fi­nale only be­cause we’d had the op­por­tu­nity to catch his stellar sur­prise ap­pear­ance at the end of Ben­son’s an­nual party at GSD&M to ben­e­fit the Health Al­liance for Austin Mu­si­cians. Other high­lights in­cluded the Avett Broth­ers (who stayed on­stage to jam with Wil­lie) and short but sweet mini-sets from Sunny Sweeney and Shan­non McNally with Char­lie Sex­ton. Kasey Cham­bers: The Aus­tralian singer-song­writer played to a packed house at Cooper’s as part of the Amer­i­cana Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion show­case, mix­ing emo­tional bal­lads and bluesy rock­ers pulled from her early years to a new al­bum that topped the charts in her home coun­try. Han­son video at Krieg Com­plex: Many other SXSWers got to see the all­grown-up for­mer kid pop stars at var­i­ous high-pro­file shows down­town, but our States­man video team got the spe­cial treat of hear­ing them dig up an old a cap­pella tune for a trip down mem­ory lane filmed out at the soft­ball fields where they had a fate­ful en­counter in 1994 that helped change their ca­reer.

ERIC WEBB

Diet Cig: Is there any­one who looks hap­pier do­ing their job than Alex Lu­ciano of Diet Cig? Is there any­one at SXSW who high kicked higher? This duo puts on a heck of a show, at times hi­lar­i­ous and at times ab­so­lutely thrash-wor­thy, with in­die-rock songs that pack a punch right in the feel­ings. I caught Diet Cig at Water­loo Records for their eighth show of the week af­ter Lu­ciano had started to lose her voice. I do not feel cheated in any way.

Cardi B: I had pre­vi­ously known this New York rap­per only from her fine work in the in­ter­net GIF world, but she was a fierce, poi­son-tipped em­cee wear­ing a pile of tulle in the heat. I got my life. Ti­nashe: I did not dis­cover Ti­nashe, per se, as I loved her records be­fore catch­ing her on Wed­nes­day night. I did not know, how­ever, that she was such a show­stop­per live, break­ing out jaw-drop­ping chore­og­ra­phy and vo­cals strong enough to bust out the a cap­pella. I’m a su­per­fan now.

Liv­ing Hour: While I only caught the tail end of the Cana­dian dream-pop band’s set, they earn the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only band play­ing be­fore the band I came to see that I wish I had seen in their en­tirety. Front­woman Sam Sarty has a knee-weak­en­ing voice and a trom­bone, and she’s not afraid to use ei­ther.

And not dis­cov­er­ies, but my fave sets … PWR BTTM: What is there to say about PWR BTTM that hasn’t been said? They owned this SXSW, stand­ing from each stage they played and rain­ing down rock ’n’ roll light­ning, stray sequins and pithy wit. I saw them 2.5 times, such is their power.

Neko Case: For heal­ing pur­poses, Case could not be beat. Her solo gig at the Twin Peaks pop-up cut through all the SXSW pre­ten­sion and got right into the heart­break­ing, some­times eerie, soul-nour­ish­ing mu­sic. As she re­minded us all, “just nerd as hard as you can.” How can you not love a woman in an owl cos­tume?

ERIC PULSIFER

!!! (Chk Chk Chk): Wear­ing a match­ing pale blue blazer and suit pants al­tered into short, short shorts, !!! front­man Nic Of­fer jump kicked and pranced his way around the stage with strut and swag­ger of Mick Jag­ger. Add to the dis­play Of­fer’s play­ful back and forth with vo­cal­ist Meah Pace, and you could have had a blast just watch­ing the band. For­tu­nately, they sounded even bet­ter than they looked — with house beats, fuzzy funk bass and pecks of disco gui­tar. It was sexy and silly but also se­ri­ously good dance mu­sic. An epic night of early ’00s post-hard­core: Wed­nes­day night, it was pos­si­ble to see a mind-blow­ing dou­ble­header of posthard­core icons: El Paso emo band At the Drive-In and Austin’s wild …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. At the DriveIn played a sur­prise show at the Mo­hawk, where the packed crowd ab­so­lutely lost their minds with joy­ous mosh­ing and scream­ing along, while Trail of Dead played a short but volatile set (clas­sic SXSW sound check is­sues) for a rowdy Rainey Street crowd.

Jain: Parisian solo im­port Jain brought her in­fec­tious dance­hall-tinged elec­tropop and charmed the crowd. Through­out her set she po­litely re­quested au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion in a thick French ac­cent. The crowd re­spect­fully com­plied — not too much of an ask, as her mu­sic was pure pop gold.

Tunde Olani­ran: Sleigh Bells tour­mate Tunde Olani­ran only played one set at SXSW 2017, but it was a doozy — a so­cially con­scious, bang­ing mashup of hip-hop, punk, funk, trap, world and R&B with chore­ographed danc­ing and an au­di­ence on-stage twerk-off at its close. Olani­ran said he hoped his show would be a place where ev­ery­one could “ex­change a lit­tle joy.” He suc­ceeded. Anna Mered­ith: Ex­per­i­men­tal com­poser Mered­ith played her strange brew of max­i­mal­ist pro­gres­sive pop, mix­ing honk­ing tuba, swelling cello, off-tempo duel­ing drums, ca­cophonous clar­inet, math rock gui­tar, 8-bit video game synths and more into a com­plex but dance­able col­lage.

NANCY FLORES

La Dame Blanche: One my fa­vorite mu­si­cal dis­cov­er­ies this year was Yaite Ramos Ro­driguez, aka La Dame Blanche. Ro­driguez strut­ted on stage wear­ing a white cape and smok­ing a cigar. As if her mag­i­cal blend of hiphop with a bit of cumbia, dance­hall and reg­gae wasn’t enough, Ro­driguez also takes

com­mand of the stage when she whips out a flute to round out her sexy, soul­ful sound. LAMC show at Col­lide

House: I’ll for­ever re­mem­ber the mag­i­cal feel­ing cre­ated at the in­ti­mate liv­ing room space on Sixth Street by three back-to-back artists pre­sented by the Latin Al­ter­na­tive Mu­sic Con­fer­ence. You just can’t beat an up-close-and per­sonal per­for­mance by uber tal­ented artists who pour ev­ery­thing into a per­for­mance. I feel lucky to have been in­vited to see Venezue­lan rock­ers La Vida Bo­heme, Tokyo Ska Par­adise and Puerto Rico’s Ileana Cabra there.

Res­i­dente: An in­cred­i­ble high-en­ergy per­for­mance by Rene Pérez Joglar, for­mer rap­per for Calle 13, elec­tri­fied the All Latino Re­sist Con­cert on Thurs­day. Pérez Joglar, who has earned the most Gram­mys (25) of any Latin artist, pre­miered his doc­u­men­tary “Res­i­dente” at SXSW and also de­buted his new band at Au­di­to­rium Shores. It’s the start of a new chap­ter for him, and his fans can’t wait for what lies ahead.

CHAD SWIATECKI

Spoon: The first of a three­night stand at the for­mer Emo’s down­town saw the Austin leg­ends de­liv­er­ing crisp, col­or­ful takes on well­worn ma­te­rial, and some from the just-re­leased “Hot Thoughts” al­bum.

A Gi­ant Dog: Bleed­ing from the mouth be­cause of ac­ci­dently bash­ing it with the mi­cro­phone mid-set, lead singer Sab­rina El­lis gut­ted out a top-notch per­for­mance for the Austin punks and pre­viewed ma­te­rial from a tobe-an­nounced next al­bum.

Snoop Dogg: Light on sur­prises or con­tro­versy from his rhetor­i­cal dustup with Pres­i­dent Trump, the man de­liv­ered 40 min­utes of un­qual­i­fied hits for a crowd that served as cap­tive au­di­ence for all things un­der the Snoop brand­ing um­brella. New Pornog­ra­phers: Give the Cana­di­ans a quick set with­out their premier voice (Neko Case) or song­writ­ing al­ter ego (Dan Be­jar) and they’ll still de­liver. Ma­te­rial from the forth­com­ing “Whi­te­out Con­di­tions” glim­mered with Carl New­man’s pure op crafts­man­ship.

ANDY O’CON­NOR

Rus­sell E.L. But­ler at

Moogfest Show­case: Fast­paced, in­tense techno that puts a new spin on the term “brain­dance.” He fits in with Austin’s bur­geon­ing elec­tronic scene, even though he’s from the Bay Area. His Sade shirt was eas­ily the best thing worn on stage, too.

Show Me the Body: Not many stuck around af­ter Mastodon, but Show Me the Body’s mu­tant banjo noise rock man­aged to up­stage the head­lin­ers. They’ve got­ten more con­fronta­tional, bring­ing punk dan­ger to slick show­cases. Se­cu­rity wasn’t happy when kids broke through the VIP area to mosh. Who needs VIP ar­eas any­way?

GosT: Syn­th­wave in sound, metal in look. It’s loud and throb­bing all the same. Head­bang­ing, mosh­ing and danc­ing do, in fact, go to­gether.

ERIKA RICH FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Solange per­forms at YouTube at Cop­per­tank dur­ing SXSW on Wed­nes­day. Her per­for­mance brought some fans to tears.

TAMIR KALIFA/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Cap­tain Kirk Dou­glas, gui­tarist for the Roots, fin­ishes an elec­tri­fy­ing ver­sion of “Johnny B. Goode” as a tribute to Chuck Berry, the rock ‘n’ roll pi­o­neer who died Satur­day.

TOM MCCARTHY JR. FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Austin band Sweet Spirit per­forms at Do512’s the Big One day party at Bar­racuda on Satur­day.

JAY JANNER/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Ri­p­ley Ty and her hus­band, Joe Ty, of the Aberdeen, Wash., band Juliet Tango, play on a load­ing dock at Twin Liquors on Sev­enth Street on Satur­day.

JAY JANNER/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Garth Brooks, right, per­forms at Vic Mathias Shores dur­ing South by South­west on Satur­day.

DAVE CREANEY/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

The River­boat Gam­blers play at the Jack­a­lope dur­ing SXSW on Satur­day.

JAY JANNER/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Lizzo per­forms at the In­de­pen­dence and La­gu­ni­tas Bug Out party at the Scoot Inn dur­ing South by South­west on March 14.

DAVE CREANEY/AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN.

Wu-Tang Clan per­forms at ACL Live dur­ing SXSW on March 14.

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